I must admit, taking the time to write this weekend has been a bit of a challenge. For several reasons, all of which I'll get into shortly. Suffice it to say, the biggest factor here has been that my Internet hasn't been stable or even speedy for the greater part of the weekend.
My apartment doesn't have Internet access yet, so I'm borrowing a USB 3G modem. These are super popular here, given that wired connections do not exist in all areas of the city, or even the country for that matter. It is the same reason that cellular phones are more popular than home phones. Lastly, I can prepay with one of these bad boys - with a home connection I cannot. The downside is that the connection oscillates between dial-up speeds (56k) to DSL speeds (HSDPA - 1.5MBps) - but with no rhyme or reason when the time to change occurs. Given the wide range of Internet options I've experienced while in the Philippines thus far, I'd rather have a consistent slower connection than a wildly varying fast connection.
For this weekend, there were again many firsts for me. First time seeding an entire house. I bought pots and pans, plates, silverware, appliances, cooking utensils, glassware - the gamut. I was guessing most of the time as to what I needed, and leveraged my knowledge of what we have at our house in the US in order to accurately determine what was needed. I think I did okay. Interestingly enough, there were two items that I searched high and low for in several stores and have yet to been able to find. They are:
- Dishwashing detergent
- Garbage bags
I freely admit I am a lucky person in the scope of the Philippines - I have a dishwasher. When you walk into grocery stores, there is a whole isle for kitchen cleaning - but all geared toward manual work. Let's face it... if I have the money, I'm hiring a helper, not buying a washing machine. The concept is just foreign. I did find one store with dishwashing tablets available, but thus far I've had mixed results with this.
In all of this shopping, I found that people were very willing to help me find what I need. In fact, I saw more than enough times where people were simply smiling at me with all of the things I was buying. Carts at the department store are essentially two hand carry bags that you roll around on wheels. Having several of these carts full was an oddity. I'm not sure how this is typically done. I still have a few minor things to pick up that I learned over the weekend - namely an ironing board and an iron. I would have thought that a furnished apartment would come with all of these things - I did ask for them. What I got wasn't bad - most of the major appliance: washer/dryer, bed, desk, couches, TV, table. It's the minor stuff that was missing. The minor, but Important stuff.
I must have gone back and forth to the various department stores four times - just because I couldn't carry anything more with me. This was my entire Saturday - back and forth to stores. Then unpacking - lots of that. Lots of dishwashing. Lots of cleaning. Saturday was exhausting.
After that was completed, I went down to my favorite little store - Makati Cinema Square. You can get anything you want here. My goal - TV shows. I don't typically have cable - but I stream what I want to watch via Hulu or Netflix. With crappy Internet, I cannot do that here. After a long day, I just wanted to do nothing but stare at the TV for a few hours. Went down, and ended up browsing almost 1000 videos to purchase. Lots of choices - I got a few things and then headed home.
Between Saturday and Sunday, it was determined that someone stole my credit card, as both my wife in Tennessee and I were using the card at the same time. I bought about $400 worth of stuff for the kitchen (who knew spices could be so damn expensive?!), and the heater at the house went out. Our bank, USAA, went haywire and gave my wife the 3rd degree to ensure that we hadn't stolen the card. She had to go in and give blood samples, recite the pledge of allegiance to USAA, and a few other ludicrous things.
I jest, but they did give her a great deal of hassle. However, I'd rather have this than have my card stolen. I just find it humorous that my daily activities for the last several years occasionally prompt USAA to call and ask if our card had been stolen. I think I have the spending habits of a thief.
On Sunday, I was determined not to leave my house. I did so much coming and going on Saturday I just wanted a rest day. I left my house briefly to go and pick up another local phone. My US phone again has been giving me problems, so I needed to get another Phone. Picked up an LG Optimus One. Nice little Andriod phone, so my US phone is now off. Don't worry - if you call my US Google Voice number, it will ring through to the Philippines. I can also still get Text Messaging on that number. Came home, and decided that I might actually make myself a meal.
- Enter chicken. I bought a whole chicken, and now felt like I could actually bake this thing. Grab out my new Glassware, thaw the chicken, and then throw this thing on there. Okay, naked bird. What now?
- Sauce! Sure, I could have had a go at basting the bird with some olive oil, spicing it up, and then baking... but that was a little too much for me to handle. In my pantry, I happened to have a bottle of Barbeque sauce - just poured it out all over this thing. I think I caught myself actually talking to the bird as I was doing this - cautioning the bird that we had to properly apply this sauce to all parts of it equally, including the underarm areas (under the wing).
- Oven - 350F for 1.5 hours.... turn on the stove and.... wait. Celcius. Okay, no major problem - quick calculation... 173C (give or take). Preheat.
- Throw the chicken in the oven, go away. Come back later, chicken "looks" done. Grab a knife, cut it open. No pink. Take it out, let it sit. Go away.
- Get some rice, and some corn. Rice in the pot, corn in the microwave. Turn on. Go away. Come back, take knife to chicken. Sloppily carve bird.
The bird itself wasn't too bad. The skin was not crispy at all - in fact it was pretty leathery. I should have done breading to help out there. But, I cooked my first meal on my own without help. It wasn't fantastic, but it fed me, and will probably continue to feed me for at least another few days as I cannot eat a whole chicken on my own in a single sitting.
I'll be doing much more of this cooking thing - so if you have some really good recipes that you'd like to share- throw them my way. I'd love to give them a shot.
Now, to work. Let's see what interesting things happen today.